Arsenal revived their Champions League hopes in thrilling fashion with a crucial victory over Bayern Munich at Emirates Stadium. The Gunners’ hopes of reaching the knockout phase were in serious jeopardy after they lost their opening two games away to Dinamo Zagreb and at home to Olympiakos. Arsene Wenger’s side responded by beating Pep Guardiola’s Bayern – clear favourites to win Group F – and make a nonsense of those dismal earlier performances. Bayern dominated possession but Arsenal dug out the win that keeps their hopes alive when substitute Olivier Giroud bundled home from close range in the 77th minute after goalkeeper Manuel Neuer made a rare error as he missed Santi Cazorla’s free-kick.
The win was secured in the dying seconds when Mesut Ozil turned in Hector Bellerin’s cross, Neuer clawing the ball out only for the officials to adjudge it had crossed the line. Arsenal were indebted to keeper Petr Cech, restored after replacement David Ospina’s mistake in the defeat by Olympiakos, saving superbly from Thiago Alcantara and Arturo Vidal. Neuer also excelled before his mistake, particularly with a sensational save from Theo Walcott’s first-half header. Neuer is widely regarded as the world’s best – but it was a mixed night for Germany’s World Cup winner. He produced a save only the greats can contemplate when clawing out Walcott’s close-range header when a goal seemed certain.
Could Walcott’s header have been directed better? Did he give Neuer just that slight chance of making a save that the best will always take advantage of? Yes, but it was still a monument to reflexes, agility and technique as Neuer left Walcott dumbfounded, as well as Aaron Ramsey, who had already turned to celebrate. Neuer, however, proved he was fallible as Arsenal took the lead, making an ungainly dash from goal and flapping hopelessly at Cazorla’s free-kick to allow Giroud to scramble home with a hint of handball. It happens to the best – and it may just have saved Arsenal’s Champions League campaign.